By David Lynch
Royston Drenthe’s performance in midweek summed up everything Everton fans might not yet have known about the mercurial attacker. Stepovers, pace, directness were all prominent features of the Dutchman’s play against Chelsea before he contrived to remind observers of the exasperating flipside to his persona by getting himself sent off.
Drenthe first burst into the football consciousness as a 20-year-old starring in a tournament-winning Netherlands team at the European Under-21 Championships in 2007. In the wake of that competition he was snapped up by Real Madrid and wasted no time in displaying all the characteristics necessary to have him labelled a ‘troubled genius’.
His 40-yard screamer on his debut against Sevilla in the Super Cup certainly did no harm in announcing his undoubted talent at the Bernabeu and it preceded several encouraging performances which hinted at the mouthwatering potential of the youngster. Then, however, came the inevitable controversy. Stories of Drenthe allegedly storming out of the training ground after being omitted from the squad to face Valencia began to surface and shortly after he revealed his frailty yet again by asking to be dropped for three matches following fan criticism.
|ROYSTON SEES RED
|FROM OUR LIVE COMMENTARY|
|108'||"WOW, FOOLISH DECISION THERE FROM DRENTHE! The Dutchman has received his second booking for a fierce challenge on Ryan Bertrand. He's gone from being one of Everton's main assets to their achilles heel in a matter of minutes"|
| PLAYER RATING
|6.0||A virtuoso performance ruined by indiscipline. Played from the right and was a constant thorn in Chelsea's side. His step-overs and direct running had the opposition defence constantly retreating but his silly clash with Bertrand brought a second yellow card, an early bath, and swung the game in the visitors' favour.
He started off in typically brilliant fashion as Hercules began by beating Barcelona at the Camp Nou and gained plaudits for their expansive play – at the heart of which was their troubled Dutch talent. Yet, the foreseeable storm sat ominously on the horizon, the trouble which so often punctuates his story was imminent.
Hercules it seemed were not paying their players and Royston, just being Royston, was the only one to break this news to the press. The problem with being the sole player to speak out in such circumstances however is that you can become a focal point for criticism - and Drenthe most certainly did. He immediately lost the backing of the Hercules fans and found himself on the end of vile racial abuse from the support that had once loved him. Not long after this furore Hercules slipped into the relegation zone for the first time that season - 27 games in - and they never got out.
With Real Madrid no longer wanting or needing his services, this year it was the Premier League and Everton who offered a lifeline for the career of the former Feyenoord man. Though he had often been held back from a starting position by manager David Moyes early into his English football career, he rewarded the faith shown by a starting berth against Fulham with a fantastic goal. When Moyes followed this by putting the Dutchman in the 11 against Chelsea in the League Cup, he rather predictably managed to shoot himself in the foot by ruining a brilliant performance with a needless red card.
The sending off came at a point where the scores were level and the numerical advantage was with the hosts, and it effectively handed the Londoners the impetus to go on and win the game. All this served as proof that a new club and new surroundings may not have instantly cured the biggest weakness in this player’s armoury: his mentality.
At Everton, Drenthe now finds himself in a vastly different environment to the pressure cooker of Madrid or the dogfight in Alicante. The Toffees, as their manager admitted on Wednesday night, don’t have such heady distractions as European football but they will also most certainly not be involved in a relegation battle at the end of this season either. Despite this, they do not possess the transfer budget to match their traditional mid-table finish and so must rely on the collective spirit of their manager and players to reach their targets.
If Everton are to again punch above their weight this season then it will be thanks to the instilled tactical discipline and desire which can at times liken them to a finely tuned machine. The trouble for Moyes will be working out how to prevent Drenthe becoming a spanner in the works.
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